Saturday, July 25, 2009

One of my more blond moments...

This weekend I had the pleasure of being invited to a cheese party. Friends Geoff and Hannah wanted to celebrate a number of special things, so organised a party on the beach for Saturday afternoon. Guests were encouraged to bring along beach things and a plate of cheese. Being a former deli-girl, I was eager and also amazed that I have never personally hosted a cheese party. Thursday afternoon I perused the local fine food establishment, hunting for a soft rind soft goats cheese. Milawa Cheese Factory make something similar, which I've previously covered in prosciutto and baked in the oven. It was the epitome of an indulgent dinner... Anyway, given that I now live in rural Australia the options were limited when it came to goats cheese. I did find a dutch semi-hard that was piquant enough to satisfy.

So, on to my silly mistake. I opted to bake a loaf of bread to go with the cheese. It was certainly a success and I've put the recipe for the two baguettes below. Thanks Martha Stewart and Nicky from work who lent me the cookbook. The instructions called for a baking stone to be heated in the oven. As I don't have a baking stone, I used a beautiful hand-crafted wooden chopping board. Ops. I have now a black board, with a hidden grain. I must remember, wood is combustible. Repeat after me "Wood is Combustible". So an inverted baking tray made do instead. The loaves were crusty on the bottom and cooked wonderfully though.


7 oz flour
¾ cup warm water – plus a little more
¼ oz dried yeast

7 ½ oz flour, plus more for dusting
1 ½ tbs salt
1/3 cup warm water
Vegetable oil

To make the starter: Combine ingredients in the bowl of your mixed, and combine with the paddle attachment until you have a thin batter. You may need more water that the ¾ cup. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours.

To make the dough: Add the flour, salt and a little of the water to the starter. Attach the dough hook and mix of low speed for 3 minutes. Add more water, up to 1/3 cup if needed – I only used a tiny bit of water. Increase the mixer’s speed and kneed for a further 3 minutes. Turn out onto a floured surface and kneed lightly. The dough will be soft but not sticky. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 1 hour to prove until doubled in size.

Return dough to the floured surface. Press gently into an oval. Fold the top third down, the bottom third up, then fold the sides in. Turn over so the folds are underneath and return it to the oiled bowl. Prove again for a further hour once covered. Why you fold it like this, I don’t know. But Martha recommended it and it worked.

Return dough again to the floured surface. Divide dough into two pieces. Gently shape into two ovals, cover with plastic wrap and leave for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle a long baking tray with polenta. Pre-heat the oven to 220⁰C, with a shelf in the bottom third of the oven in place for your baguettes to cook on.

With the long side of the oval facing you, fold the top third of one of the dough pieces down, the bottom third up. Roll into a long baguette shape. Repeat with the other dough. Cover with glad wrap and place in a warm spot to have a final prove for 30 minutes. Make four superficial slices into the tops of each baguette, and brush with vegetable oil if you want a more golden loaf. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until deliciously done.

These baguettes are chewy with a thick crust. They needs to be torn rather than cut and are perfect with cheese by the ocean.

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